I know this is a controversial subject, at least among Wolfpack fans, but I believe that Debbie Yow was right to let Tom O’Brien go. To support my position, let’s take a look at O’Brien’s tenure at State:
2007 – After 3 straight 9-3 seasons and eight straight bowl apperances at Boston College, TOB announces that he will be taking his talents to South Beach…er, NC State. Most State fans, including yours truly, are pretty ecstatic. His reason for what most view as a lateral move is the fan support he saw when BC visited Raleigh; State seems to be to him as Notre Dame is to Lou Holtz, a destination rather than a stepping-stone (like the Pack was for the aforementioned Holtz). But an instant miracle is not in the cards; State finishes 5-7 and does not go bowling.
2008 – Fair enough, Coach needs some time to recruit. The team starts slow but provides a feel-good ending with 4 straight wins including a thrashing of UNC that leaves them bowl-eligible. They lose to Rutgers in the PapaJohns.com bowl, but it’s a start.
2009 – This one qualifies as a lost season. Only a season-ending win vs the Heels that knocks them out of bowl eligibility gives State fans anything to cheer about. The low point for Coach had to be the 52-20 drubbing the Pack took at BC. Let the grumbling begin…
2010 – The high point, the one O’Brien will point to when he tells the story of his time at State. He calms his critics with an 8-4 mark followed by a rout of West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl, 23-7. This is the TOBPack we dreamed of.
2011 – State falls back to 7-5. There is good news, with a last-game rout of Maryland 56-41, a powerful defensive performance vs UNC 13-0, and a thrilling Belk Bowl win against Louisville 31-24. But after the 2010 season this really felt like somewhat of a step back. And there would be more of the same in…
2012 – Really? 6-6? Had to beat BC in the final game to get to a bowl again? Then they lost to Vandy, though that one was on Dana Bible as our Yow had already pulled the trigger and frankly, the team looked a bit lost in this one.
Now, does the body of work mandate a firing? No. Is Tom O’Brien a bad coach? No. I wish him all sucess in his new post as Associate Head Coach at Virginia and feel that he will return to the HC ranks at some point if he so desires.
But here’s the point: O’Brien had taken State about as far as he was likely to. Yes, we went bowling four times in his six seasons, but we were almost always just this side of mediocre. Sometimes it is just time, and this was one of those cases.
Will Dave Doeren do better? I don’t have a crystal ball, but he did take a team from a non-BCS conference to the Orange Bowl, a place State has yet to go. Admittedly this is a completely different challenge than facing the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech on a regular basis, not to mention the newcomers about to change the face of the ACC. But I look forward to finding out.
As for Yow, I am still pretty psyched about that basketball coach she chose. So let’s give this thing a chance.